Charles: king in wait­ing

SOME MONARCHISTS FEAR, AND REPUB­LI­CANS HOPE, HE WILL BE A POOR KING

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - FOCUS -

When Prince Charles, who turns 70 next week, be­comes king on the death of his mother Queen El­iz­a­beth, he will have waited longer than any of his pre­de­ces­sors to head a royal fam­ily that dates back 1 000 years.

Some monarchists fear, and repub­li­cans hope, he will be a poor king. His ad­mir­ers be­lieve his wis­dom, thought­ful­ness and con­cerns for con­ser­va­tion and the en­vi­ron­ment will win him the pub­lic sup­port he de­serves.

Over­shad­ow­ing it all is his late first wife, Princes Diana, the ac­ri­mo­nious end to their mar­riage, and the en­dur­ing hos­til­ity in some quar­ters to his sec­ond wife Camilla, the Duchess of Corn­wall.

“You are ac­cused of be­ing con­tro­ver­sial just be­cause you are try­ing to draw at­ten­tion to things that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily part of the con­ven­tional view­point,” Charles said in an in­ter­view with GQ mag­a­zine in Septem­ber.

“My prob­lem is I find there are too many things that need do­ing.”

Charles Philip Arthur Ge­orge, Prince of Wales, Duke of Corn­wall, Duke of Rothe­say, Earl of Car­rick, Baron of Ren­frew, Earl of Ch­ester, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Stew­ard of Scot­land, was born at Buck­ing­ham Palace on No­vem­ber 14, 1948.

He was four when his grand­fa­ther Ge­orge VI died and his mother as­cended to the throne at the age of 25. The fol­low­ing year, he watched with his grand­mother and aunt, the late Princess Mar­garet, as El­iz­a­beth was crowned queen of 16 realms.

He de­spised his re­mote Scot­tish school, Gor­don­stoun, which his fa­ther also at­tended, but was the first royal heir to get a de­gree af­ter study­ing at Cam­bridge Univer­sity.

Charles was made Prince of Wales at a grand cer­e­mony in 1969. But at 92 his mother re­mains in good health with no plans to ab­di­cate, so his wait goes on.

For his crit­ics, and even some monarchists who think he will bring dis­as­ter upon the House of Wind­sor, that is no bad thing.

“Frankly we’re very lucky he hasn’t been king, be­cause whereas the queen has been the most ex­em­plary monarch and has kept the monar­chy much in peo­ple’s es­teem, I think Charles would un­der­mine it,” said Tom Bower, author of Rebel Prince, an unau­tho­rised bi­og­ra­phy.

Such un­flat­ter­ing bi­ogra­phies por­tray Charles as an ar­ro­gant, weak man who en­joys the trap­pings of lux­ury – he has his own royal harpist – is in­tol­er­ant of crit­i­cism and is a devo­tee of odd­ball the­o­ries.

Charles de­clined to be in­ter­viewed for this ar­ti­cle.

His sup­port­ers say he is easy quarry, with ev­ery ac­tion and ut­ter­ance scru­ti­nised by an of­ten un­sym­pa­thetic me­dia.

“When you’re in his very ex­posed pub­lic po­si­tion, loy­alty and dis­loy­alty is a quite com­plex sit­u­a­tion,” said a for­mer se­nior aide who worked with the prince for many years.

The aide said Charles' de­trac­tors sim­ply chose to view his char­ac­ter­is­tics in a bad light. “There’s a whole load of stuff that is just not true,” the for­mer aide, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said. “Bower’s only spo­ken to peo­ple with a griev­ance.”

What is he re­ally like?

“He’s com­pli­cated. I’ve rarely met any­one so cu­ri­ous about the world as him and ea­ger to know what’s go­ing on and why. More than any­thing, he’s got this drive, he’s phe­nom­e­nally hard-work­ing,” the ex-aide said.

Si­mon Lewis, the queen’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­re­tary from 1998 to 2001, de­scribed Charles as full of en­thu­si­asm, com­mit­ted, with a “wicked sense of hu­mour”. “If you are a pub­lic fig­ure ... if you put your head above the para­pet, then you get crit­i­cism.”

Friends and foes speak of his de­vo­tion to duty. The prince’s work­ing day starts at break­fast – he doesn’t have lunch – and fin­ishes near mid­night. The ex-aide said he got a work-re­lated call from Charles on Christ­mas Day.

In pri­vate, Charles is pas­sion­ate about arts, cul­ture, the­atre, lit­er­a­ture, opera and pop – he’s also a big fan of Leonard Co­hen.

Hap­pi­est in his gar­den, he loves Wil­liam Shake­speare, paints wa­ter­colours and has writ­ten chil­dren’s books. He can be fun but also short-tem­pered and de­mand­ing, the for­mer aide said.

Al­though Charles is loath to talk about be­com­ing monarch, as it will mean the death of his mother, be­hind the scenes well-pre­pared plans for the oc­ca­sion – co­de­named Op­er­a­tion Lon­don Bridge – are ready.

Pic­ture: EPA-EFE

NEEDS PUB­LIC SUP­PORT. Charles Philip Arthur Ge­orge, Prince of Wales, turns 70 on Wed­nes­day.

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